Rosalind Jana is a student, model, journalist, fashionista and an author – she seems to have herself pretty sorted. But that wasn’t always the case.
Best of times, worst of times: which describes being teenage? For me, at least, it was both. ‘Best’ involved blogging, sketching, photography, reading and generally being creative – pushing at the edges of what I could do, taking chances and experimenting all the time. ‘Worst’ involved being frustrated at school, hugely lacking confidence, struggling with friends, and questioning myself all the time. Oh, and the small matter of having spinal surgery when I was 15…
Basically, some fly through adolescence, loving every minute, while others struggle to get off the ground for all sorts of reasons. From mental health problems to difficult family situations, there are plenty of challenges to be found. Sometimes they’re challenges that aren’t taken seriously: as though that label ‘teenager’ is an excuse for others to dismiss these very valid problems. That needs to change.
When I began writing my book ‘Notes on Being Teenage’, I wanted to reflect that. Good, bad, wonderful, dreadful, just a bit meh: they’re all valid experiences. Maybe that’s what I felt was missing from most of the books I used to read about ‘being teenage’. They seemed far-removed from my world because they were written by adults who assumed that to be a teenager meant agonizing over your ‘crush’ (ugh, that word), screaming at your parents, obsessing over celebs, and being as rebellious as possible – whilst simultaneously hoping to blend in just like everyone else. All well and good and recognizable to some, but it didn’t reflect what I was feeling or doing. Where was the absolute honesty about stuff that mattered? Where was the non-patronizing approach to relationships or friendships? Where on earth were the celebrations of the power of red lipstick?
In fact, I find any kind of suggestion that there might be a single, universal ‘teenage’ experience intensely frustrating. What rubbish to assume we all go through the same rites of passage, all grow up similarly, all think the same. Each and every one of us learns to find a route through adolescence in our own way. Those routes are many and varied. A ton of different views along the way. Plenty of destinations. Some of those routes are really, bloody difficult – more like an upward hike. Others cover slightly gentler ground.
I entered my teen years as a fairly timid, nervous girl who worked hard but also worried about fitting in. I left my teens as an outspoken woman who works even harder and couldn’t care less about fitting in. I prefer this version of me. She’s got a lot more in the way of guts and determination – not to mention a significantly improved social life. This girl’s got metal rods bolted to her spine and some great anecdotes to tell.
She, or rather, the current ‘me’, only emerged after several rounds of transformation. Some of these metamorphoses happened at secondary school, others in the years since then. Many of these changes were ones I never could have predicted or expected. But at heart, I’m still very similar to who I was as an adolescent. Opinions, life-choices, and possibilities have changed, but so much of what I’m still doing remains influenced by what I was experiencing and thinking about while growing up.
I wrote this book for that teenage self: trying to pack in everything I wish I’d known six or seven years ago. Then I widened it out: talking to lots of other young women about all their many, many ways of being teenage. We chatted about everything from the frivolous (clothes! So many clothes!) to the frank (mental health was a consistent conversation). They were all brilliant and thoughtful and full of ideas.
I don’t claim to provide any quick answers or to flourish up a snazzy formula for adolescence. As you can probably guess, there isn’t one. But wherever you’re at right now though, it’s almost definitely a good point to be questioning things, absorbing yourself in what you care about, having the occasional adventure, and working out your place in the world. Perhaps there are hoops to jump through, or tricky situations to negotiate too. So often there are. Maybe you’ll find some of your experiences (or the experiences of those around you) reflected in ‘Notes on Being Teenage’. Maybe some of it will be new to you. There’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach. If nothing else, there’s always that celebration of the magic of red lipstick…
Read it already? Tell us what you thought at @maximumpopbooks!
- 9 times Nat Luurtsema made us want to ask ‘Is dis u?’
- If we could quote the whole of Meredith Russo’s ‘If I Was Your Girl’, we would. But here’s some snippets instead.
- Quiz: Which piece of Harry Potter fan merchandise should you buy based on your favourite character?
- 15 of the best pets from fiction. Ever.
- 16 times Ron Weasley was legit you in every situation
- Which Diagon Alley shop should you get a Saturday job in?
- Publishing 101: What do publishers do? Part 1
- Quiz: Which fairytale retelling should you read next?
- Booktube culture, honesty, and dreaming about YouTube: A Q&A with booktuber shoutame
- VE Schwab is touring the UK + WIN! 1 of 10 signed copies of ‘This Savage Song’